Maurice Legg

Chapter 9 ...Post universtiy, Marriage... Canada

Stepping back a little, I’d left the GEC Research Labs in Summer of 1954 and joined The Glacier Metal Company as a management trainee. Although Glacier was a rather minor company making motor car bearings, it was important for its management practices. The managing director was Wilfred Brown, later to become a minister in Harold Wilson’s government and the founder of Brunel University . Glacier was a “pocket bureaucracy” in the sense described by Weber with written policy, role definitions, depersonalised strategies, works councils and an appeals system. No strike had taken place in the company because of the systems to work through and resolve problems. Joe Kelly’s book is a good introduction to the company approach. It was a fascinating environment and for the first time I was excited and involved in the world of work. After my management traineeship, which involved working on every aspect of the companies activities, I had my first assignment as Personnel Manager of No1 Factory.

Now for a change of pace! In Christmas of 1956, I travelled from Newcastle to London with Margaret Foster, a tall, beautiful Jarrow girl, who was escaping from one of those family Christmas get - togethers ( also known as pitched battles) We talked a lot; it is possible to cover a lot of ground in a 6 hour train journey and, by the time we arrived in London, we guessed that we had a future together. Margaret said that by the time the train arrived in London that she’d decided to marry me. Typically I was more precautionary. I had not really given marriage much of a thought; I’d had a girlfriend a year since university but marriage was low on my priorities and girls didn’t like playing second fiddle to rowing and who can blame them. I was also poor and finding places to live in was a more difficult problem even than it is today. Three factors caused me to waiver. Firstly I’d been to the USA for the Games and really decided that I should live there. Secondly I’d had my successes in rowing but I’d had enough of that and had substituted an enthusiasm for a career in industry. And third and most importantly my love affair with Margaret was blossoming. To make sense out these open ends, I decided to get a job in North America and succeeded in doing so by about October of 1956. For a Jarrow girl, Margaret had travelled quite widely in the Army and welcomed the idea of a drastic lifestyle change so we married on Dec 24th and flew to Montreal in mid Feb 1957 where I began work with Northern Electric Co.   I worked as a development engineer on a particular electronic device that was used as an amplifier in the long distance telephony. My years in GEC Research Labs had given me a good handle on the technology and I fitted in easily to work in a new company and a new country. I was paid the sum of $4500 pa which was low, but for me it was just a stepping stone to working In the USA.

And now for something completely different. Of our lives in Montreal , I’ve left the best to the last! Margaret had found a job with the Sun Life Insurance Co of Canada . We had a nice apartment, new friends, a Studebaker , and things were steadying down when  Margaret discovered that she was pregnant. I’d had mumps after 21 and we’d discussed the possibility that we may not have been able to have children so it came as a pleasant surprise. One night when the earliest birthdate was judged to be 6 weeks away, we went to a party and the next morning Margaret didn’t feel too good and we decided that she only had a hangover. Nevertheless we went to the Salvation Army Hospital where she was enrolled for the baby and she was admitted for observation. I went from there to Montreal Station to meet Paddy and Geoffrey Page, two friends of ours, who were staying with us on their way from Vancouver to London . I duly met them and drove them to our home. 10 minutes after we arrived, the phone rung and the hospital informed me that I was the father of a baby girl weighing 2.5 lbs. As we were digesting that surprise the phone rung again to announce a second baby girl weighing 3.5lbs. I remember asking if that was all and I was assured that it was. We had no warning that twins were expected and hadn’t made any preparation because the baby, in the singular, wasn’t expected for another 6 weeks. Being so light and so premature, they were kept in intensive care with oxygen for three weeks and the younger one was somewhat jaundiced and sick. We bought frantically, clothes. bottles, cribs, sterilizers and tried to get used mentally to the idea of parenting. We read Dr Spock’s bible and learnt some useful tips e.g “How to fold a diaper depends on the size of the baby and the diaper”.  It was hard going!  We brought the babies home in a basket, they were so small and we were afraid to touch them as they seemed so delicate. I remember that they had to be fed every 2 hours, day and night, and their normal drink was 1.5oz. If they cried we’d rush to their bedroom to reassure them. If all was quiet we’d rush to their bedroom to make sure they were breathing. So it went on for weeks until Margaret and I decided that it was them or us and we actually slept that night. (or at least I did!) The elder twin was called Suzanne  Margaret and the younger Stephanie Jane.  Margaret’s master plan was for the names to be the other way round with Suzanne the eldest being called Jane after Margaret’s mother but something got lost somewhere in the confusion.

Last, but by no means least, was the arrival of a baby boy 10 months later. We knew the drill by then. Michael was a lovely boy, his looks unusual in that he had a ruptured abdominal wall and seemed unusually well endowed and he was completely covered with hair- not only his head but the rest of him. I took him in to hospital at 3 months old. Leaving a 3mth old baby in hospital was just about the hardest thing I’ve ever done but the operation was a success and this lovely baby was back at home in a day or so and never looked back. We were living in a small bungalow in the country south of Montreal in a completely French speaking area and Michael was the first child to be registered civilly, i.e. not in the local Catholic Church. I visited the Mayor (who was the local stationmaster) and he entered the birth details in a brand new exercise book- I wonder whether it still exists.

I quit my job with Northern Electric Co after two years. I had come to Canada solely as a means to go to the US and I was poorly paid. I found a job with Raytheon, doubling my salary at a stroke. I was sad to leave Montreal where we’d made good friends but needs must.

Chapter 10    The United States
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